Around the Capitol
As week two of committee meetings ends here is a look at the activity that has happened our state Capitol that pertains to the Florida League.
As of Friday, there has been a total of 996 bills filed in the Florida Legislature. Just this week, 359 bills have been filed. Due to COVID-19, the Capitol has been closed to the public, only allowing you to enter the building if you have a meeting or have been invited to sit in on a committee in person. If you do not fall under either of these categories, you can travel to the FSU civic center to give your testimony for all Senate committees, or simply watch from the comfort of your home via the Florida Channel.
Governor’s Budget Proposal
This week, Governor DeSantis released his proposed budget of 96.6 billion dollars. This is $4 billion more than the current budget for this year. This is due to the additional spending they will need to help combat the effects from COVID- 19. At first glance of the budget, DeSantis has increased the spending on Medicaid to help aid how fast enrollment has grown. The Governor also proposed a new program aimed at aiding the climate crisis. “Resilient Florida” will use revenues from the state documentary stamp tax to pay for the debt service on $1 billion in bonds for projects that address the impacts of climate change. Interestingly the Governor failed to actually mention the words “climate change” when presenting this new program. It also will increase the amount of spending per child in K-12. In addition to that, the Governor also is proposing putting an additional $550 million towards teacher raises to get them closer to the goal of 47,500 per year.
HB 1 & SB 484 “Combating Public Disorder” also known as the Anti-Protest Bills
Earlier this week the League launched an Action Alert regarding HB 1. Florida state legislators recently filed HB 1 and SB 484 which are purportedly designed to combat riots. The legislation was originally proposed last September by Gov. DeSantis in direct response to statewide protests in Florida for racial justice and police accountability in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The Governor has attempted to “rebrand” the bill as something that is necessary in response to last week’s violent insurrection at our nation’s Capitol. To use this failed white-supremacist show of force to garner bipartisan support for a bill that would criminalize Black and brown Floridians and allies for exercising their first amendment rights is shameful.
The League of Women Voters of Florida strongly believes that this piece of legislation politicizes the right to protest and disregards the protections provided by the First Amendment.
HB 1 by Representative Fernandez-Barquin (R) was heard in the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee on Wednesday. The meeting was schedule from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and ended up being extended due to the volume of public testimony and debate between members on the committee. This bill passed its first stop, with a 11-6 vote. It is now in the Justice Appropriation Subcommittee, waiting to be put on the agenda.
Trish Neely, Lobby Corps Chair for the League of Women Voters of Florida gave compelling testimony during the committee. She pointed out that this bill would be an infringement of our first amendment right to peacefully protest. Organizations from all walks of life came and testified in opposition for this bill, something that is unheard of. Only 6 people waived in support of this legislation out of 60+ whom testified. Click here to watch the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee meeting that took place on January 27th.
Public Notice & Voting Rights Restoration Database
SB 402 by Senator Ray Rodrigues was temporarily postponed this Monday in committee before it was given the chance to be voted on and referred to the next committee stop. As of Friday, 1/29/21, the bill has not been agenda for the upcoming committee week.
However, HB 35 Legal Notices by Representative Randy Fine (R) is on the calendar next week on 2/3 in the Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee. This committee will be held at 4:30pm in the Knott Building. HB 35 is back again for its third session. Representative Fine filed this bill last year and it died in the Judiciary committee after passing the House floor and never being heard in the Senate. The 2021 version of the bill is giving government agencies the option to publish legal notices on a publicly accessible website in place of a newspaper if certain conditions are met.
These two bills are not currently identical but do have similarities that we will be monitoring.
Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID- 19
SB 72 by Senator Brandes (R) was heard in the Judiciary committee on Monday and passed with a 6-4 vote. Senator Polsky (D) and Senator Rouson (D) both proposed amendments to the bill that would clarify language, however both failed. The House version of this bill is on the agenda in the Pandemics & Public Emergencies on 2/3. This bill aims to shield businesses from unscrupulous or opportunistic lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The LWVFL has taken a neutral position on this legislation.